Valdez loses big money it never had

Posted: Friday, January 26, 2001

VALDEZ (AP) -- Valdez officials are blaming a communications breakdown between city departments for the capital improvement budget containing $719,000 less than expected.

Finance Director Christine Sasse discovered the shortfall during the city's recent budget cycle. She said the solution comes down to reconciling all the books.

The phantom shortfall likely accumulated over a span of more than 15 years, according to Sasse.

''(Capital Improvement Funds)don't lapse like other city funds. Those stop at the end of the year and you have to have a brand new budget to fund continuing work,'' she said. ''But CIPs can be funded for years.''

The city's accounting softwared doesn't track revenues by department or project. Sasse said new software will help keep tabs on revenues and projects for each department, and reconcile their accounts quarterly, the Valdez Vanguard reported.

Sasse said that grant restrictions, when not met, could also have contributed to the problem. If the city fails to meet the requirements of the grant, it might not qualify for full reminbursement, or if there are change orders that exceed the grant revenue, a shortfall could occur.

Valdez City Council member Jim Shirrell said the city has suffered although the money never existed. Projects scheduled for 2001 had to be delayed or cancelled.

John Brost, an auditor hired by the city, said his firm will work with the city solve some of the problems.

''No money has been misplaced or lost or misappropriated,'' he said. ''I think it's a total waste of time to go back to 1985. You could just go back a year or two and get examples of some of the problems, then fix those problems.''

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